Emily Bronte (1818 – 1848)
Rev. Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell Bronte lived in Thornton, Yorkshire
and had six children, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell. Three of these children were to become famous novelists and poets.
Emily only wrote the one novel in 1847, which was Wuthering Heights.
It is clear that Emily’s environment and work greatly influenced this literary piece. Her father was of Irish extraction and was known for his poetry and imagination, and clearly had an effect on Emily’s writing. This one novel was greatly criticized at the time for its dark and brooding atmosphere. In fact, her sister Charlotte, in the preface of the book which was written shortly after Emily’s death, says ‘whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know. I scarcely think it is’.
The mood of the book was not acceptable to the early Victorian audience,
unlike the works created by her sisters such as Jane Eyre, for although these included the same gothic gloom, the central character, Heathcliff stepped across the bounds of acceptable behavior, even for these times.
Her life was cut short when she caught a severe cold after attending her
brother’s funeral. This spread to her lungs and she died of tuberculosis on 19th December 1848. One can only surmise what further work Emily would have gone on to create. She, along with her other two gifted sisters, only really started their literary careers when the two oldest Bronte children, Maria and Elizabeth, had died. It is clear that death at an early age was quite common in this society, a fact that is mirrored in the collective works of the Bronte sisters.
The sisters’ works had been published under the name ‘Bell’ with Charlotte
using the male pseudonym Currer Bell, Emily using Ellis Bell and Anne using Acton Bell.
It was assumed by their reading audience that all three ‘Bells’ were the one author. After the deaths of Emily and Anne, Charlotte disclosed to the reading public the true identities of the authors’ works such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, together with the sisters’ numerous poems.
Long after its initial publication, Wuthering Heights became one of the
classics of English literature, being fully appreciated by later generations of readers.